Nova Scotia

20 years later, Swissair crash still raw for victims' families, locals

Family members who lost loved ones gathered in Bayswater, N.S., on Sunday to mark 20 years since Swissair Flight 111 crashed off the coast.

229 victims died in crash off the coast of Nova Scotia

Families of the victims gather to mourn at a memorial on Nova Scotia's South Shore. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Families place flowers on the memorial for their loved ones as a local woman walks by, blowing a kiss toward them.

It's this connection that still is so poignant, 20 years later: between the families who lost loved ones, and the locals — fishermen and first responders — who set out on the water that night, hoping to find survivors.

Families from all over the world gathered on Nova Scotia's South Shore on Sunday to commemorate two decades since Swissair Flight 111 crashed, killing all 229 people aboard.

More than 200 people gathered at the ceremony in Bayswater, including more than a dozen family members, some who had travelled thousands of kilometres to be there.

Mariana Navarro lost her grandmother in the Swissair crash. She travelled from Mexico to attend the commemoration event. (CBC)

Among them was 23-year-old Mariana Navarro, who travelled from Mexico to mark the anniversary. Navarro was just a toddler when her grandmother died in the crash.  

"It's always heavy on the heart, but you just try to move on and live with it — live with the fact it happened, and … she's not coming back," Navarro said.

Robert Kokoruda of Fairfield, Conn., lost his mother, father and four close friends in the Swissair crash.

"Seems like yesterday," he said. "It's just hard to believe it's 20 years."

The memorial spot is one of two in the area that mark the disaster. At this location, the remains of those victims who couldn't be identified are buried.

One family member came to the ceremony with small gifts, passing them out to the first responders — a small token to say thank you.

About the Author

Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or

With files from Wildinette Paul, Radio-Canada